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Best shadows for your eye colour

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One of the most popular questions pro makeup Nina Westbury and I get on twitter is what eyeshadow shades look best on different eye colours. It’s not surprising as beauty counters display dozens of mono shadows and palettes in an array of combinations and textures. Even the pros can get a little overwhelmed.


Colour theory: “Choosing eye makeup is one of the most playful aspects of makeup artistry because it is where we have the most freedom and options,” says Estee Lauder’s Carly Wolk. “To achieve a desired look, we can refer to colour theory and the colour wheel. For a more subtle look, choose colours that are harmonious with the colour of the eyes. This means choose colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel. For a bolder, more striking look, choose colours that are complimentary or opposite on the colour wheel.”

1 colour wheel

Pro tip: “Blue shades are beautiful on all eye colours as blue will whiten the whites of the eye. This in turn allows your eye colour to look more luminous.”


“The easiest way to get a natural look is to select two softer, more subtle complimentary shades,” says Lancome’s Lora Spiga. “I like to use a highlighter under the brow, then apply a medium to darker shadow on the lid and eye contour. I’ll finish with a liner and some mascara.”




Your Best Eye Shadow Shades:

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Dark blue eyes

Best shades: brown, slate grey, light purple, warm terracotta, burnt orange, gold, light pink, brown-pink, muted mauve, light dusty blue, turquoise, bronze.

Eyeliner essentials: midnight blue and black

Pro tip: “It is important to apply a dark shade of liner along the upper lash line to create definition,” says Dior’s Anne Marie VanMeer. “Black, navy, blue or grey are excellent choices.”

Pro tip: Burnt orange and terracotta are go-to shades for fashion designers in Milan and New York. You’ll see dozens of models wearing these colours every fashion week.

Pro tip: For a more daring look, play with pink and rose shadows. These can look particularly good in spring and summer.

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Bobbi Brown Illuminating Nudes Palette


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Lancome Colour Design Palette in Bronze Amour


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Dior 5-Couleurs in Tutu

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DiorShow Art Pen in navy and black

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A dual-ended brush is the perfect tool for beautiful, fool-proof application. Use the flat side to press colour on the lid, and the angled side to line the eyes.”

Lancome Dual-Ended Shadow and Liner Brush #18



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Light blue eyes

“When I work with clients who have light blue eyes, I look for shadows with complimentary tones like: soft blue, blue-grey, lavender, grey, pink and mauve,” says Lancome Pro Artist Lora Spiga. “For more contrast and drama, I’ll choose yellow-beige, taupe, gold-brown, cinnamon or coral-peach. This adds drama to the eye.”

Pro tip: “I use Dior’s Cuir Cannage palette all the time on brown eyes,” says Westbury. “If you look carefully, you’ll see that the browns are warm. They have a slight burgundy undertone and anything red or orange-based will make blue eyes pop. That is because blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel.” She says she particularly likes the matte milk chocolate shade in the center. “This is perfect for women who don’t like shimmer. It’s the perfect palette for any blue or green-eyed girl of any age.”

Pro tip: Want to make blue eyes really stand out? Line them with black eyeliner. So says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson.

Best shades: lavender, light grey, white, champagne, peach, rich bronze, copper

Eyeliner essentials: navy and black

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Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Pinks


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Dior 5 Couleurs in Cuir Cannage

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Guerlain Ecrin 4 Couleurs in 001

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Lancome Colour Design in Teal Fury

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Lancome Colour Design in Taupe Craze

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Dior Mono Fusion #821 Chimere



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Grey eyes

“I love to use grey-blue shades on women with grey eyes,” says Elizabeth Arden’s Jamie Petrovic. “I also like to work with neutral colours to really illuminate the eyes. Misty Teal and Shimmering Taupe are always beautiful.”

“You can do almost anything with grey eyes,” says MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Melissa Gibson. “I love to stick with a cement or silver shadow and line the eyes in black liner. That is a classic look.”

Best shades: lilac, orchid, plum, almond, cement, silver, khaki, blue-greys

Eyeliner essential: black

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Misty Teal

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Shimmering Taupe

mac eyeshadow in stony

MAC Eyeshadow in Stony

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.58.53 AMShu uemura drawing pencil in black

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Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Palette in Currant Desire


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Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Shadow Trio in Bouquet

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YSl Couture Mono in Caftan



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Dark Brown eyes


“What makes brown eyes look rich, deep and mysterious are cool colours that have rich jewel-like tones,” says Wolk. “Purples are wonderful but beware of the ones that have warmer, red undertones (like burgundy or maroon). Stick with more blue-toned purples like amethyst and blue-violet.”

Best shades: black plum, chestnut, navy and taupe

Eyeliner essentials:

“The trick with dark brown eyes is to use a liner that is darker than your eye colour, such as mahogany or espresso,” says Bobbi Brown

“As a guideline, I like to use blue or green eyeshadows with brown eyes,” says Pro Artist Nina Westbury. “I also like to use black or grey shadows to add sophistication and elegance. Rather than applying a lid full of blue like Abba used to wear, I like to use some grey or black in the crease for contrast and dimension.”

Nina particularly likes Lancome’s Colour Design Palette in Mint Jolie for South Asian skin tones. Pair it with an orange lipstick and you have a chic party look.

Get the look: Here’s how to get the most out of the Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy Sculpting Eyeshadow 5-Colour Palette in Envious Orchid. Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid. With an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line, smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.To increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. To finish softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.

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Chanel Illusion d’ombre 83 Illusoire

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Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Envious Orchid

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Diorshow Fusion Mono

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YSL Couture Mono in Faaon

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Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Taupe

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Lancome Colour Design in Mint Jolie


Bobbi Brown’s foolproof eye: “Layer shadows from light to dark. Start with the palest shadow as the base, then layer a medium shade, and apply the darkest shade last.”


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Light Brown eyes

Brown eyes look natural when worn with brown shadows. But to make them the focus of your look, try navy or violet shades.

“The good thing about brown eyes is you can work with almost any colour you want,” says Gibson. “I like to use a blue eyeliner for contrast. And I do like to play with offbeat colours too.”

Best shades: medium browns, bronze, black plum, navy or dark chocolate brown, light mauve, light pink, and peach

Eyeliner essential: black

Dior Pro-tip: “Apply the bronze shade, using a medium-firm brush, on the eye lid,” says Dior’s Angie Semple. “Then, with an eye liner brush apply the top right deep brown shade along the upper and lower lash line. Smudge out the line to create an “every day” smoky look.”

She says to increase the intensity, apply the dark brown from the lower right, into the crease and blend with the matte caramel colour. “To finish, softly apply the vanilla colour to the brow bone.”

Pro-tip: Avoid using heavy eye creams on the lid before applying your eye makeup.

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Becca Ombre Nudes Eye Palette

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Lancome Colour Design Palette in Amethyst

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Clinique All About Shadow Single in Peach Pop



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Green eyes

Green eyes look mischievous and stunning when deep gold tones that are found in the actual flecks of the eye are used says Wolk. Wearing green shadows will give you a natural look. Violet (which has an element of red) will make green eyes ‘pop’.

Petrovic loves to use khaki greens mixed with brown shades. These can be worn day or night.

Best shades: plum, brown, taupe, smoky silver, silvery sage, heather, purple, lavender (any shadow with red undertones)

Eyeliner essential: navy

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Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Duo in Classic Khaki

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Clarins Mineral Eyeshadow in Silvery Sage

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Estee Lauder Color Envy Palette in Rebel Metal



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Hazel eyes

“I too look to the principle of the colour wheel when choosing eyeshadows,” says Cliniques Sara Whittaker. “To create a natural look, go with green/golden shades. This will create a monochromatic look that is close to your own eye colour. If you want to make hazel eyes ‘pop’, choose violet shades. This will really bring out the green/gold colour of the eyes.”

Best shades: bronze, shimmering copper, green, soft brown, purple, peach, light pink, mauve, bronze-green, gold-green

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Clinique Wear Everywhere Palette in Greens

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Clarins Garden Escape Palette

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YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils – No. 5 burgundy

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Elizabeth Arden Untold Colour Collection Quad in Posh Purple




Violet eyes

Violet eye colour is the rarest on the planet. But as Elizabeth Taylor knew, this colour can be strikingly beautiful. Greens, greys and lavenders are particularly good choices.

Best shades: greys, greens, yellows, lavender

Pro tip: When using a shadow that is similar to your eye colour, play around with the texture. A little shimmer can make your eyes really stand out.


Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.20.26 AMGuerlain Kiss Kiss Palette in Les Aciers

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Giorgio Armani Beauty Eye Tint in 03

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Dior 5 Couleurs Kingdom of Colours in House of Greens

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YSL Couture Variation in Tuxedo (coming in March 2015)



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The resource: Bobbi Brown’s Everything Eyes book

New York makeup artist Bobbi Brown has recently published a comprehensive guide to eye makeup. She spends several chapters outlining tips and tricks for those who wear glasses. The how-to instructions are perfect for those just starting out with makeup. Highly recommended.


  • Reply
    Paula S
    January 28, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    I have always been confused about the best eye shadow color for me, in part because I haven’t really experimented. I don’t wear eye shadow often because I am afraid of getting it wrong. This is great information!

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 27, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    Inspired once again! I’m picking the Dior 5 Couleurs Kingdom of Colours in House of Greens today. I’ve got a green eye and a hazel one. I used to wear Clinique’s green eyeshadow, and there was a good Almay one, too. I forgot how good it looks on. I also need to get some new eyeliner. I wear liquid, and I usually get Kat Von Dee. But I’m thinking I might just spoil myself and get that DiorShow Art Pen in black. I like that shu uemura one for smudging. Love, love, love these picks! Thx Dave!! xoxoJJ

  • Reply
    January 27, 2023 at 9:35 pm

    Seems I have been using the wrong colors! Good to have a reference now.

  • Reply
    Cheryl k
    January 25, 2023 at 2:41 am

    I must be super bold because I love pink eye shadows and this beautiful eye shadow pallet by Dior looks to die for— Dior 5-Couleurs in Tutu @cherann3

  • Reply
    Julie Fabella
    January 24, 2023 at 7:20 am

    I’ve never thought blue would look good with my brown eyes but I’d love to try now that I’ve read this post

  • Reply
    Janelle Miranda
    January 23, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    I love the distinction between light and dark shades of each eye color. Super helpful!

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 23, 2023 at 11:34 am

    Okay today’s pick of which of these eye shadow palettes would I love to wear today is the Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Envious Orchid one! I have green eyes, and this palette looks like it would play up my green eyes very well. I just love this palette and all the other ones, too. Thanks for all the great tips for how to rock any color eyeshadow and have it make your (insert color here) eyes pop! Thanks Dave!! xoxoJJ

  • Reply
    January 21, 2023 at 11:31 pm

    I know you say blue eyeshadow looks good with very eye color BUT does it actually look good 90% of the time… let me preface that by saying on NON makeup savvy people…..

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 19, 2023 at 5:00 pm

    Today, my favorite palette is the Bobbi Brown Illuminating Nudes Palette. It just has the perfect colors for any day or night look. Love it! And it does flatter my eyes! Thanks Dave!!

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 17, 2023 at 11:46 am

    I love just looking at all the beautiful eye shadow palettes on here! Today, I’m loving the Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Palette in Currant Desire! I currently desire that palette!! So much!! Thx Dave!!

  • Reply
    Sherri Gelbart
    January 13, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    I came to this article for the tips, but with all the stunning palettes, shadows, liners and tools shown, it almost became a shopping expedition! My wishlist just got a lot longer.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2023 at 11:31 pm

    I love wearing purple eyeshadow and liner!

  • Reply
    Tabitha Olson
    January 12, 2023 at 4:05 am

    I am awful with shadow. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Susan T.
    January 10, 2023 at 2:08 pm

    I have green eyes and tend to wear greys or purples so this is spot on for me. I’ve never tried navy liner though so I’ll have to give it a whirl!

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 10, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    God, that Clarins Garden Escape Palette is GORGEOUS! I’ve got one green eye and one hazel eye. I usually go with neutral shades, plums, greens, greys, golds, and just whatever I’m in the mood to wear. When I’m in a hurry, I use highlighter and bronzer and blush even, and it looks really good, especially in the summer! It’s also a great way to use palettes if they contain a highlighter that’s too light or a bronzer that’s too dark. They make for great eye shadows! I never waste makeup! Thanks Dave! xoxoJJ

  • Reply
    January 9, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    Great tips! Whenever I wear violet liners on my waterline I get tons of compliments .

  • Reply
    Claudia N.
    January 9, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    Great tips! I’m inspired to try wearing blue or green eyeshadow!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    I have hazel eyes, but green eyeshadow is a never go on me unfortunately!

  • Reply
    Lisa Reid
    January 9, 2023 at 12:53 pm

    All the colors are gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Anna Nguyen
    January 9, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Love the selections for dark brown eyes. My favorite is the Estee Lauder Pure Colour Envy in Envious Orchid. Twitter @poetriot

  • Reply
    Cynthia Dingwell
    January 9, 2023 at 11:00 am

    The colour eye wheel is great to know when choosing your own personal eye colour palette. I have hazel eyes. Thank you

  • Reply
    Lisa Troccoli
    January 9, 2023 at 10:52 am

    Really informative and I will definitely try the colours suggested as I always wondered what colours would suit me best.

  • Reply
    Lisa Troccoli
    January 9, 2023 at 10:50 am

    This is really Interesting as I’ve always wondered what colours should suit me best and now I have the answers! I will definitely try these colours and enjoy experimenting.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2023 at 10:31 am

    This is sooo helpful.

    • Reply
      Tanusta Jainarain
      January 9, 2023 at 11:18 am

      This is such a help for people who arent pro’s with makeup like me

  • Reply
    Rinesa Berisha
    January 9, 2023 at 9:10 am

    This is so helpful! My makeup game is about to change! I love the example with the wheel. So smart!

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